Duplex apartments sales surge in NYC

It’s double or nothing for Nikki Acton.

While many New Yorker couples struggled with an excess of intimacy with their partners during the pandemic lockdown, Acton — a 36-year-old who works in finance just like her husband, Andrew Kobierski, 37 — told The Post that her spacious duplex apartment preserved her relationship.

“The two of us were together 24/7 but could still get space from each other because of the floor plan,” Acton said of her two-level apartment on Cornelia Street in the West Village.

“Otherwise, I am convinced that we would both have felt suffocated.”

A duplex-style apartment, which orients square footage vertically over two levels rather than horizontally over one — has many other benefits she said.

“I have a dedicated space on the entry level where I can entertain friends and a private area upstairs where nobody else goes,” she said.

Acton is so convinced of the superiority of the duplex over more traditional layouts that she is currently in the process of moving to another one in the West Village. And although her new $1.2 million apartment is only 750 square feet, the upstairs-downstairs set-up, combined with the high ceilings, makes her home feel like a palace.

Nikki Acton in her Greenwich Village duplex, on the lower floor.
Split decision: Nikki Acton and her partner Andrew Kobierski “could still get space from each other because of the floor plan.”
Tamara Beckwith

“Duplexes make sense on so many levels and fit all the criteria I want in an apartment,” said Acton.

Acton is among a growing number of New Yorkers who are scooping up duplexes in the wake of the pandemic. These bi-level apartments help homebound city dwellers feel less cramped as they work, eat, sleep and attempt to relax.

And while the exploding pandemic-era popularity of townhouses amid COVID has been well reported, many more home buyers actually prefer duplexes, said Douglas Elliman CEO Dottie Herman, because “they get the amenities of a building combined with the compartmentalized areas of a traditional home.”

Research from real estate analytics company UrbanDigs also shows that the number of deals for Manhattan duplexes in the fourth quarter of 2020 increased 22 percent, year-over-year. Forty-one contracts were signed for duplexes in November 2020 — the highest number since June 2019 when 44 contracts were signed.

And according to Douglas Elliman, online searches for duplex apartments across the industry, not just on its site, saw a 133 percent increase between June and November of 2020, compared to the first six months of the year.

Vickey Barron, an agent with Compass, has sold three duplexes in the last four months.

“It’s a surprise because this is a time when business is slower, and even in a good year, I would only usually sell one,” she said.

Ryan Serhant, a star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” said that his eponymous firm witnessed the same surge, selling more than a dozen duplexes in the last three months, ranging from $1 million to $10 million. That’s compared with just six duplexes during the same time last year.

“Before COVID, apartment buyers were all about standard square footage,” said Serhant. “Now, the trend is volumetric square footage, which is the height you get in a duplex and gives the illusion of a space that’s multiples bigger than it actually is.”

Developers and designers, who had traditionally formatted only the penthouse unit as a duplex, have recognized the demand for multi-level apartments.

Interior shot of a duplex unit at 101 West 14th Street.
Developers are taking the hint: Nearly half of the units at the upcoming condo tower 101 W. 14th will feature two levels.
Binyan Studios

Serhant is currently marketing 101 W. 14th St., a condominium scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021 that has 44 apartments, 21 of which are duplexes. Prices start at $1.9 million and go up to $9.5 million. The residences don’t officially go on sale until January, but Serhant said that he filmed an Instagram story from a duplex in the building this summer and got more than 300 inquiries from prospective buyers.

And although the duplex is becoming slightly more democratic in Manhattan, many are still reserved for the richest of the rich.

Interior shot of the duplex penthouse at 111 W. 57th. Street.
A duplex penthouse at 111 W. 57th. St. just sold for $57 million.
Peter Murdock

A $57 million duplex penthouse, for example, sold last month at the Billionaire’s Row super tower 111 W. 57th St. The 7,130-square-foot residence has four bedrooms, 5½ bathrooms and an oval staircase connecting the upper and lower levels. The new owner can savor Central Park a from the floor-to-ceiling windows and entertain in the great hall, which spans the 50-foot width of the building.

A $25 million duplex penthouse also just went into contract at 25 Park Row, a new condo overlooking City Hall Park. The apartment has five bedrooms and 5½ baths, 1,000 square feet of outdoor space and a living room with a 23-foot-high ceiling.

Interior of 25 Park Row.
A $25 million duplex is now in contract at 25 Park Row, reflecting fresh demand.

Engaged couple Daniel and Chelsea (who requested anonymity), are another couple who have seen the light from multiple apartment stories.

This fall, they began hunting for a new home with two non-negotiables.

“We needed a place that felt super spacious and, since we’re both working from home for the foreseeable future, have separate areas for each of us to work privately,” said Chelsea, 29, who is in graduate school for social work at Columbia University.

Their broker, Jeremy Kamm of Warburg Realty, suggested a one-bedroom duplex.

“The two floors create vertical barriers between our work and personal lives and the high ceilings make the apartment look bigger than it actually is,” said Daniel, 31, a tech industry worker.

Ultimately, the couple moved into a contemporary 900-square-foot property in Downtown Brooklyn with an exposed staircase and 14-foot-high ceilings. They closed in early November and moved in a few weeks later.

“Daniel works upstairs, and I’m downstairs so we get space from each other,” said Chelsea. “And psychologically, the setup gives me the feeling of going to school even though I’m home. We love living here.”